I’ve heard a rumor that the next big food trend, which will join the ranks of cupcakes, macarons, and anything served from a truck, is gourmet toast. I can feel your eyes rolling from here, but I have this information on good authority– I heard it first on Wait, Wait… Don’t Tell Me!, and then in this month’s issue of Bon Appetit. In the second half of the magazine, there was a profile of a breakfast-and-lunch cafe in Los Angeles whose specialty is toast slathered with ricotta and jam, a slice of which will cost you a cool $7.
When I first read this, I was dismayed. But then, I remembered the dark days of college eating, when our dorm rules prohibited us from keeping any cooking equipment beyond the standard-issue microwave; even humble toasters were contraband. And, I’ll tell you, there were times when I really wanted toast. I wanted it badly enough one winter that I started laying slices of bread on my radiator to crisp up (those radiators were probably covered in lead paint, and definitely not very clean, so I’m glad I’m still alive to tell you this). Would I have shelled out seven bucks for a slice? Probably not. But I can see how gourmet toast has its audience.
Mostly, though, I’m just mad that I keep missing out on my chance to capitalize on the next big food trend. Maybe I’ll just buy a food truck, and from it, I shall sell things that everyone loves, but are so simple that no one would ever dream of seeking them out beyond the home kitchen. I’m thinking hand-blended chocolate milk… or fancy popcorn… or artisanal peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
At least if I go with the PBJs, I’ve got a leg up on the jam making process.
If, like me, you are interested in making jam, but not particularly interested in learning how to can that jam (especially in a kitchen without central air), this is the recipe for you. It cooks quickly on the stove, and requires no steam-sealing, because it makes a small enough quantity that you’ll probably polish it off in a week anyway.
You’ll only need three apricots; you’ll cut them in half and remove the pits, and they should all fit in a one-cup measure (though the top ones will poke out over the top of the cup a good bit). In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine the apricots with a scant cup of sugar and stir them around a bit. It will look like way too much sugar… but just go with it. Add 1/2 cup of water, stir everything together, and set the saucepan over medium-low heat. Once the sugar has thoroughly dissolved, raise the heat to medium and let it simmer for about half an hour, removing the foam that rises to the top. (Once it cools, you can taste the foam to see how the jam is coming along.)
Start checking in on the jam after about 20 minutes; the apricots should be broken down, and the mixture should be getting thick. When it starts to coat a spoon and generally look and smell jam-like, remove it from the heat.
Let the jam sit out overnight, covered. In the morning, it should be even further thickened and ready to eat.
This jam is near-perfect; it’s ridiculously easy to make, it’s beautiful to look at, and it tastes like pure sunshine. You could easily multiply the recipe to make bigger batches– and a jar of homemade jam makes for flawless hipster gift-giving.
Incidentally, it’s also really, really good on toast.
adapted from The Heart of the Artichoke
scant 1 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
Cut the apricots in half and pit them, leaving the peel intact. Place the apricot halves and the sugar in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-low heat and stir together to moisten and infuse the sugar. Add the water and stir until sugar is dissolved, then raise the heat to medium. Cook for about 30 minutes; remove the pale orange foam as it rises to the top of the pot. When the jam coats a spoon and has reached the consistency of your liking, remove from the heat; let cool, covered, for several hours or overnight. Transfer to jars and refrigerate.
Jam is best served with thick-sliced, toasted challah and a bit of your favorite butter.